PULLMAN – Washington State University’s march through a gantlet of a schedule continues this Saturday when the Cougars travel to No. 12 Stanford.
No. 15 Arizona was the latest team to take a whack at the Cougars, delivering a 24-7 blow Saturday evening at Martin Stadium.
That loss, which dropped WSU to 1-6 overall, 0-4 in Pac-10 play, is part of the nation’s third-toughest schedule, at least according to Jeff Sagarin’s computer formula given USA Today’s seal of approval.
“Not what I wanted to hear, is it?” WSU coach Paul Wulff said Sunday. “It doesn’t surprise me, but I didn’t know that. You look at, we’ve played (a lot of) top 25 teams. … It’s a hell of a schedule; it’s a hell of a run.”
The sticks and stones of seven weeks without a break – the Cougars’ two byes hit back-to-back after game No. 11 – are also taking a toll on the players.
Left tackle David Gonzales (broken arm), who started the first seven games, and reserve cornerback Damante Horton (left knee) are the latest to go on the injury list, both hurt in the first half against UA.
Gonzales’ season is done, but Wulff said Horton’s MRI was actually good news, as the freshman suffered an MCL sprain and only a slight ACL tear. He should avoid surgery and may return in four to six weeks, which gets him back in time for the Apple Cup.
“It actually came back as a positive MRI from what we were anticipating,” Wulff said. “The fact that he could be playing before the end of the year would be great, but it (also) allows him to get right back in that weight room and get bigger and stronger. If he had reconstructive surgery, it would hold him back.”
Some of the previously injured contributors may return this week, Wulff said. That includes right tackle Micah Hannam (concussion), who will be part of a probable line shuffle due to Gonzales’ injury.
“We’ve got to come up with a few different answers, because one isn’t going to work,” Wulff said. “As soon as one guy gets hurt, you have to have a new plan, right? So we have to have two or three legitimate plans.”
Wulff said some of the possibilities include moving freshman John Fullington, who started his first game in Hannam’s spot Saturday, or Hannam to left tackle, moving left guard Wade Jacobson outside, as was the case in the second half, or even more exotic maneuvers, like trying a tight end at tackle.
One position that is also in flux is linebacker. Former starting middle linebacker Mike Ledgerwood may be back this week after missing the last couple games with a neck problem and freshman C.J. Mizell will return off his one-game suspension for violating team rules. In Mizell’s absence, freshman Sekope Kaufusi took over in the middle and recorded a career-high eight tackles.